Monday, April 25, 2011

State Auditor: Use competition for state printing jobs

State Auditor Brian Sonntag released a performance audit this morning of the State Printer and various agency print shops. According to the audit: "With state government facing significant financial challenges, questions have again been raised on what the state should do and can afford to do. These questions led our Office to look at several various programs and functions, including the Department of Printing. We concluded that a state-owned print shop is not a core function compared with educating children and providing for the health and safety of Washington citizens. But printing is a necessary support service to help state agencies prepare and distribute public information . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 22, 2011

Governor: Special session to start Tuesday at 9 a.m.

With the Legislature failing to finish its work on the 2011-13 budget during the 103 day session (lawmakers are adjourning today two days early), Governor Gregoire announced today she will be calling a special session to convene at 9 a.m. this coming Tuesday. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has already scheduled a 2:30 p.m. public hearing on several bills for Tuesday. The Governor said at a press conference today that legislative leadership has committed to limit the scope of bills considered to those agreed upon in the proclamation she plans to issue once they adjourn. Here is a copy of that proclamation . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is Washington's Constitution undemocratic?

The 2011 budget debate has been framed by voters' approval of the 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases with their 64% approval of I-1053 statewide. Voters have enacted or re-affirmed the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases four times: 1993, 1998, 2007 and 2010. Opponents of the supermajority requirement, however, continue to argue that supermajority requirements are undemocratic and lawmakers should be able to make tax decisions based on a simple majority vote. Though the 2/3 vote requirement for tax increases is a statutory requirement, if supermajority restrictions are undemocratic wouldn't that also be true of constitutional restrictions . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How many NTIB bills are there?

If the Legislature were to call itself into a special session restricted to finishing work on the budget and those bills necessary to implement the budget (NTIB), how many bills would be in play? That's a question I've been trying to resolve but the answer is not as clear cut as I had hoped. According to staff for the House and Senate Ways and Means committees, a NTIB bill is generally a bill referenced in the budget that requires making a statutory change to achieve savings . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Special Session: Budget overtime or 30-day free-for-all?

Apparently 105 days won't be enough for the Legislature to finish the budget this year. Now that it is clear a special session will occur the only thing left in doubt is whether the Governor will call a special session or if lawmakers will call themselves back to Olympia to finish the job. The distinction between these two options is the difference between a limited special session focused only on adopting the budget and those bills necessary to implement the budget (NTIB) and the potential for a 30-day free-for-all where all the old bills that failed to move and any new bills introduced can be considered . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 15, 2011

House refuses to allow vote on bi-partisan workers' comp reform bill

Yesterday, the House refused to allow a vote on SB 5566, the Senate's bi-partisan bill that would allow for voluntary settlement agreements (VSA) in the state's workers' compensation system. This is a mechanism that 44 other states utilize to help keep system costs down. Enacting SB 5566 would save the Department of Labor and Industries about $1.2 billion over the next biennium and a quarter of a billion each year after that . . . READ MORE

Odd definition of legislative "transparency"

Usually when I see a bill that claims to increase legislative transparency I get excited that maybe the message is getting through. That is of course, unless it is on a 176 page striker to a title only bill, acted on at a 8 a.m. hearing, with the details not being made available until 9 p.m. the night before. Here is part of the intent section for the new text of HB 2020 . . . READ MORE

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Revenue (tax) bills continue to emerge in Legislature's last weeks

Legislators introduced Senate Bill 5945 today, which proposes a referendum to the voters to raise taxes on a variety of specific industries that some policymakers believe are benefiting from "tax preferences that lack such a statement or purpose, or were enacted under very different economic conditions than the conditions that prevail in 2011." Among the industries that would see their tax rate jump are . . . READ MORE

Did voters really mean 2/3 vote for ALL tax increases?

While April 15 is not in danger of losing its place as Tax Day on the calendar, Senate Democrats have chosen April 14 as the day they will introduce numerous tax increase bills. One of the bills is a proposed referendum to ask voters if they really meant that ALL tax increases should require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comparison of budget balance sheets

Around 7 p.m. last night the Senate's top budget writers released their proposal for the 2011-13 budget. The public hearing for the bill is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today. In a rare display of budget bipartisanship, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee gave a joint press conference to announce the details. Here is the video of the Senate budget roll-out . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Liquor reform bill introduced

With just a few weeks left of the 2011 Legislative Session, liquor reforms are taking front and center in the budget debate. The House budget assumes $300 million in new revenue by entering into a public-private partnership for the running of the state's liquor warehouse. Here are some of the still evolving details on that proposal. Today Senators Tom, Sheldon, Hobbs, Ericksen and Litzow introduced SB 5933 to privatize the state's prohibition era liquor monopoly . . . READ MORE

Monday, April 11, 2011

House Democrats Take Aim at Mortgage Interest Deduction and Out-of-State Shoppers

 Late in the game during this 2011 Legislative Session, the House Democrats (48 of them anyway) introduced HB 2078 which "significantly narrow[s] a tax deduction for banks and other financial institutions, and repeal[s] a sales tax exemption for nonresidents." This comes after last week's prolonged budget protests, some of whom were asking legislators to repeal most, if not all, tax breaks for businesses as an attempt to avoid further cuts to education and/or social programs . . . READ MORE

Friday, April 8, 2011

House's turn for "title only" bills

Last month we highlighted the introduction of 22 "title only" bills in the Senate. A title only bill is just that - the text is blank except for the title of the bill. Today was the House's turn for a burst of title only bills. Rep. Hunter is set to release 10 title only bills . . . READ MORE

Budget Language on Salmon Echoes WPC's Environmental Priorities Act

For the past two years, the Washington Policy Center has included the Environmental Priorities Act in our annual environmental recommendations to the legislature. In this year's "Fresh Start on the Environment" agenda, we again proposed the legislation that would use sound science and economics to prioritize those efforts providing the greatest environmental benefit for the available funding . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

House GOP proposes alternate budget

The House Republicans' top budget writers introduced an alternative budget proposal this morning for consideration at today's Ways and Means meeting. According to staff, it is the first time in recent memory (at least going back to 1995) that the minority party has proposed a complete budget. According to House Minority Leader DeBolt, however, this should not be seen as what the Republicans would propose if starting entirely from scratch. Instead he says it is what was possible operating within the box the majority party has framed the debate in (including the time-lines for action and review) . . . READ MORE

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Budget snap judgments

Notwithstanding the ill-advised decision to hold a public hearing only three hours after releasing the 472 page 2011-13 budget, Rep. Hunter deserves credit for producing a serious budget proposal. Though I am still slogging through line-by-line, none of the "felony gimmicks" the Treasurer or Governor warned against are present though there are a few "misdemeanors" that are cause for concern . . . READ MORE

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Chopp waives 5-day notice requirement for budget hearing

At long last the House will propose its 2011-13 budget. If you are lucky you may even have time to read it before the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to take executive action on it and any pending amendments on April 6. You definitely won't have time to read it before the public hearing scheduled this Monday (April 4) at 3:30 unless you are the most accomplished of speed readers . . . READ MORE